A new crisis intervention team within the Baltimore Police Department helped peacefully resolve a barricade situation on Wednesday involving a suicidal woman who sent a picture of a gun to family members from a West Baltimore apartment where she was holed up with two children, according to police.
Officers responded to the apartment in the 900 block of Pennsylvania Avenue in the Heritage Crossing neighborhood about 12:20 p.m. and determined that the 38-year-old woman who had sent the message was inside with two children ages 6 and 9, police said.
Police said the woman is related to the children, but did not say how.
Members of the department's Crisis Response Team then responded to the scene, and after "extensive conversations, they were able to get her to come out of the home and the situation was resolved without further incident," police said.
The gun that the woman had taken a picture of and sent to family members turned out to be a replica weapon, police said. She was not facing charges as of Wednesday afternoon.
The Crisis Response Team, which has been getting piloted in the Central District for several months, pairs police with social workers under a partnership with Behavioral Health Systems of Baltimore.
The police department was criticized for its response to individuals experiencing mental illness in a scathing report by the U.S. Department of Justice that found widespread unconstitutional policing practices last summer. The city is under a court-enforced consent decree with the Justice Department mandating reforms.
Police Commissioner Kevin Davis announced the crisis team last month by saying that it was "long overdue" in the city. On Wednesday, he praised the team for helping to bring the barricade to a peaceful resolution.
"People are dealing with various degrees of trauma and mental health crisis," Davis said in a statement. "We started this team for situations like this. Pairing a sworn officer with a licensed clinician is a deescalation method necessary in 21st century policing. I'm grateful for a peaceful resolution."
The barricade — involving an adult with a weapon representing a threat to two children — was similar to another incident in West Baltimore in March, in which a man threatened two small children with a butcher knife before a SWAT team member fatally shot him.
Body-camera footage from that incident showed Reno Joseph Owens Jr., 39, appearing highly agitated and holding his cousin's two children in his lap in an apartment in the 1000 block of N. Fulton Avenue as he brandished the knife. Police officers tried to coax Owens out of the home for nearly an hour before the decision was made to shoot him. The children were not physically harmed.
Davis at the time said the officers involved in that incident "exhibited courage, bravery and grace under pressure under very, very challenging, difficult circumstances."
When he announced the Crisis Intervention Team last month, he said it represented a new and improved form of deescalation for police in the city.